With so many significant developments this year, I thought it might be a good time to take the pulse of the smartphone market and its main competitors.
Upside: With record sales and their stock hitting all time highs, life is good for the folks at RIM right now. They are the entrenched leader in the enterprise market and will be for many years to come. Competitors cannot make up overnight for the years of engineering and refinement that have gone into the BlackBerry solution. They also are poised for growth in emerging global markets.
Downside: One obstacle they face: the fact that Apple will undoubtedly put a dent into their sales in the consumer market, starting with their largest market in the United States.
Overall outlook: Well established in the market with further strong growth ahead. In many ways, RIM can be considered the market leader right now.
Upside: Sure they’re a new entrant into the market, but what a debut. No matter how one evaluates the iPhone personally, it must be admitted that the device is a huge commercial success. Wall Street analysts are estimating first weekend sales to be anywhere from 500,000 to 700,000 units, with potentially 1 million sold in the first week. That would be a great quarter for any company selling a device at that price point, much less one week. Apple will take away market share from every vendor marketing high end smartphones to consumers.
Just like with the BlackBerry in the enterprise market, competitors will be hard pressed to close the gap with Apple in the consumer market. The scary part for competitors: Apple is doing so well with only version 1.0 of its product, and will only get better. Just look at the evolution of the iPod to see how much Apple can improve upon its own success.
Downside: In the enterprise market Apple will most likely struggle to gain traction. That doesn’t mean that some business users won’t switch, but I just can’t see Fortune 500 companies or governments en masse turning their BlackBerry’s in for iPhones.
Overall outlook: Entering with a bang, Apple’s presence in the market will have a huge influence. Apple could very well become the overall market leader in a short period of time as they introduce new designs and expand outside of the American market.